Looking to 2017, some Arkansas growers forego winter wheat for cover crops in preparation for soybeans
By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Nov. 11, 2016
- Dry fall making wheat a difficult crop without pivot irrigation this year
- Some growers banking on early planting soybeans instead
LITTLE ROCK — Across the northeastern counties of Arkansas, producers have significantly reduced their acreage of winter wheat compared to previous seasons, often choosing cereal rye or other cover crops instead, Cooperative Extension Service agents and University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture agronomists said this week.
Winter wheat was about 74 percent planted and about 51 percent emerged as of Nov. 6, according to a report this week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Jason Kelley, extension wheat and feed grains agronomist for the Division of Agriculture, said between 200,000 and 300,000 acres of winter wheat will likely be planted throughout Arkansas this fall, although growers will need an increase in soil moisture for successful stands.
Some winter wheat planting was likely nixed in light of the unusually dry weather in the region — the U.S. Drought Monitor index currently describes about 50 counties in Arkansas as being in “moderate drought” conditions, with another dozen in “abnormally dry” conditions — but, said Crittenden County Cooperative Extension Service agent Russ Parker, many growers were likely banking on early planting in soybeans.
“I’d be shocked if we even had 5,000 acres of winter wheat this year,” Parker said, noting that growers planted about 60,000 acres of the crop in 2013. “The input prices are down, so it’s not as expensive, but we’re seeing studies showing that an early soybean crop is a better choice.
“The cereal rye is a little better purposed to cover the ground over the next few months, because of the biomass it produces,” Parker said. “It’s easier to work through the stubble and kill, so it’s become our go-to cover crop. Growers seem to be willing to just get the ground ready this fall.”
Kelley said wheat prices currently were hovering around $4.50 a bushel.
“[That’s] lower than they have been the last few years,” he said. With good yields, [that] would only be at breakeven price.
“Wheat harvest is about seven months away, and a lot of things globally can impact grain prices between now and then,” Kelley said. “So hopefully we can see a price rally which would help those out who have planted wheat this year. Wheat can be an important crop as it helps provide cash flow at harvest in June and with a successful double crop soybean crop after harvest, it can provide a profitable rotation.”
Although the USDA projected a production decrease of more than 5 million bushels of soybeans in Arkansas for 2016, down from about 155 million in 2015 to about 149 million, according to a crop production report published Nov. 9, several other commodities saw increases, ranging from slight to significant. Rice production increased about 94 million hundredweight in 2015 to more than 108 million hundredweight in 2016; cotton bales increased from 471,000 bales to 830,000, and corn for grain increased from about 80 million bushels in 2015 to more than 132 million bushels.
The most notable production decrease occurred in sorghum, which plummeted from more than 43 million bushels in 2015 to about 3 million bushels in 2016.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service